Scholarship for young SA math talent

Instead of basic arithmetic and Year 4 timestables, 10-years-old Adelaide mathematician Levi Pesin is starting a degree at Flinders University.

He is adding two tertiary-level math subjects to his advanced skills in high school Specialist Mathematics ahead of competing in another international math tournament, this time in Eastern Europe.

“I really enjoy meeting the lecturers and students at university and talking about maths,” says Levi, who loves working on math problems well beyond the school program along with other regular childhood activities such as reading, swimming and chatting with friends. “I am finding people who I can share my passion for maths with.”

He would like to follow in the footsteps of internationally renowned mathematician UCLA Professor Terence Tao, one of the youngest students ever to enrol at Flinders University, who also studied maths at Flinders at the age of 10 under the supervision of his mentor, the late Professor Garth Gaudry.

After graduating with a masters degree at Flinders at the age of 16, Australian-American math genius Professor Tao completed a PhD at Princeton before becoming the youngest ever full professor at the age of 24 and only Australian winner of the prestigious Fields Medal at age 31 in 2006.

Professor Tao maintains a link with his alma mater as part of the Flinders Mathematical Sciences Laboratory (FMSL) advisory board which consults into the University’s College of Science and Engineering, including special projects at Flinders at Tonsley where famed alumnus Professor Tao’s masters project is still on display.

The State Government and Flinders University are providing assistance for further tutoring and travel expenses, announced in a special scholarship presentation at Tonsley on 1 May.

Along with SA Government and FMSL representatives, the reception included a visit by Mrs Pat Gaudry, the widow of the late Professor Gaudry who looked after Terence Tao when he too arrived at Flinders at a young age.

Levi Pesin’s interest in math has progressed from solving his first linear equation at the age of three, to doing derivatives and basic integrals at the age of seven when his learning in algebra and geometry reached high school levels.

Levi, Associate Professor Vlad Ejov and Mrs Nonna Pesina at Flinders at Tonsley last year.

From there, he began to use interactive courses, high school and university lectures, and various math websites. He started to participate in number of online Olympiads and competitions. Levi has a Russian language background as his parents grew up in Kharkov, now Ukraine, making it easier for him to compete in math Olympiads often conducted form Russia.

Last year Levi became a High Distinction awardee of both AMC (Australian National Maths Competition, Juniors), and SA Hamann Math Competition run by SA math. Levi has also received a Distinction in the Australian Intermediate Mathematics Olympiad.

Recently Levi has achieved three High Distinctions (Years 3-4, 5-6 and 7-8) and two Distinctions (Years 8-10 and 11-12) in the Computational Olympiad “Bebras” run by CSIRO.

His biggest international success is in the “Mathematics without Borders” International Olympiad where Levi has been awarded two golden medals.

Levi will be the only finalist from Australia to compete in this year’s competition, having fully qualified to compete in two age groups, school Year 4 and the senior group for Years 9-11.

Previously Levi successfully finished the SA Specialist Math high school program under guidance of retired University of Adelaide (and Moscow State University) mathematician, Professor Nick Derkatch. Then Levi’s scientist parents approached Associate Professor Vladimir Ejov at Flinders University for further mentoring.

Associate Professor Ejov has been coaching Levi toward the Mathematics without Borders tournament and going to accompany his student with his parents on the trip to Bulgaria, where the final tour will take place. Levi requires the accompanying and assistance from his parents all the time due to mobility issues.

“Mathematics is Levi’s passion and a favourite delight of his life and he has been dreaming of and already making first large steps towards academic and research career in mathematics,” says FMSL director Associate Professor Ejov.

“He is extremely talented mathematically and it’s a real pleasure working with him,” he says.

Levi’s parents, Leonid Pesin and Nonna Pesina, wished to thank Flinders University staff and students and Associate Professor Ejov’s mentoring for making their young son welcome at Flinders University.

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